Iraq asks Iran to return aircraft

AN Iranian newspaper reported yesterday that Iraq sought to persuade Iran at talks in Tehran last week to return planes flown there secretly before and during the 1991 Gulf war. The English-language Tehran Times quoted informed sources as saying that ``Baghdad's main objective in the current talks is to secure the speedy return of its fighter planes held in Iran.'' Iraq has often urged Iran to return the planes.

Iraq said in 1991 that a total of 148 planes - 33 civilian and 115 military - were moved to Iran. Iran said only 22 Iraqi planes landed, and it would not give them back without the approval of the United Nations Security Council.

``The Iraqi regime must realize that while it continues to arm and train anti-Iranian terrorists on its soil bordering the Islamic republic, it would be childish to believe that Iran will return the planes, which can easily end up in the hands of those same terrorists to be used against its citizens,'' the Times said.

Iran condemned Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait but remained neutral in the 1991 Gulf war when a United States-led multinational force drove Iraqi troops from the emirate. Syria assails Israeli-Lebanon talks

SYRIA accused Israel yesterday of trying to sabotage its close ties with Lebanon in order to coax Lebanon into signing a separate peace deal. But a Syrian official, speaking after weekend talks between Syrian President Hafez al-Assad and Lebanese President Elias Hrawi, said such scheming was doomed to failure. ``Israel tried to drag Lebanon into signing a separate, unjust deal and used threats to do so. It also tried to sabotage the strong Syrian-Lebanese ties,'' he said.

``The meeting held yesterday between President Hafez al-Assad and Lebanese President Elias Hrawi, in which both leaders adopted unified views on all topics discussed, shows that ties are very strong,'' he said. ``These ties will be strengthened even more in the future.'' Syria is the main power broker in Lebanon, with an estimated 35,000 soldiers there.

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